19/06/2001 - 22:00

A look at life outside the parliamentary chamber

19/06/2001 - 22:00


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FORMER Coalition Government Minister Graham Kierath is still weighing up his options more than 100 days after the State election.

A look at life outside the parliamentary chamber
FORMER Coalition Government Minister Graham Kierath is still weighing up his options more than 100 days after the State election.

Mr Kierath was one of several high profile Liberal Party members who lost their seats in Labor’s landslide February 10 election win.

He blames the loss of his Riverton seat on the campaign run against him by building and construction unions.

“I turned up on election day to see ‘scab’ across my windows in red paint,” Mr Kierath said.

“The unions put big, heavy-set guys dressed in black t-shirts in the polling booths to intimidate voters.

“I believe their campaign knocked about 10 per cent off my primary vote and that’s borne out by the results from postal and absentee votes.

“My seat was always marginal. On paper it looked strong because of the strong personal following I had.”

However, Mr Kierath believes those tactics will come back to haunt the unions.

“The building unions’ thuggery approach will not bring them long-term benefits. They may get some short-term gains but that’s about it,” he said.

“While they maintain these tactics they may gain some members for a short time.

“But the unions missed a golden opportunity to raise their memberships when we brought in workplace agreements in 1993.

“There was a lot of change then and change makes people uncomfortable. The unions could have acted as a form of stability, but instead they rose up to oppose the new laws.

“If they’d offered to act as bargaining agents for individuals they could have brought a lot of independents and professionals back into unions.

“I’ve had a lot of calls from businesses that had a taste of freedom and don’t want to go back to the old days.”

Since the election loss, Mr Kierath has received several offers to provide consultancy services and is seriously considering one in the resources industry.

The other offers have included chances to consult in the property development and building and construction industries.

There have even been entreaties to return to politics – both in the state and federal arenas, something he is not ruling out.

“But I don’t think I’d go into federal politics. It’s too hard on the family,” Mr Kierath said.

In the time since the election he has taken his family on holiday to the US, “something I’d promised the kids I’d do for the past 10 years”.

Mr Kierath ranks the workplace smoking bans he introduced as the biggest personal triumph of his 12-year parliamentary career.

However, he paid the ultimate price for his success, with the party stripping him of his industrial rela-tions portfolio.

“Having been overseas where they don’t have the smoking controls we have here, I can see the benefits,” Mr Kierath said.

He said the Bush Forever project he started while Planning Minister was another highlight.

“It’s one of the biggest conservation measures of the past 50 or 60 years,” Mr Kierath said.

“I’d like to think while I was Planning Minister that I was fair.”

He believes the Liberal Party’s election loss was the result of a tactical blunder – failing to play the preference game. Even though the party’s primary vote fell 8 per cent, it could have won the election if more preferences had gone its way, Mr Kierath said.

“In 1996 the Labor Party had its worst primary vote result in 100 years. This time around its primary vote was only 1.4 per cent better. It won off preferences,” he said.

“I don’t think the fact we lost the election means we have to overturn everything and start again.

“We did listen to the electorate but the perception that we weren’t (listening) was there.”

Mr Kierath said a Liberal win depended on what the minor parties did and whether the party could be an effective opposition.

“The party has to present itself as an alternative,” he said.

Mr Kierath believes his and Doug Shave’s absence from Parliament puts Liberal Party leader Colin Barnett in “a dream position”.

“I can’t think of a political leader in the past 50 years that hasn’t had an heir apparent looking over his or her shoulder,” he said.

“Richard Court always had Colin looking over his shoulder.”


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